Nota Bene Cellars
Nota Bene Cellars
by Christina Kelly
Lots of new winemakers want public attention, but one of the newest Washington winemakers actually demands it in his label, “Nota Bene.”
Nota Bene Cellars takes its name from the Latin phrase “Nota Bene,” which is used to direct the attention of the reader to something particularly important. It also happens to be the first letter of the last name of the winemaker, Tim Narby (the “N”) and his wife Carol Bryant (the “B”).
“We wanted our wines to catch the attention of the consumer,” said Narby, a Boeing programmer/analyst for the past 26 years. “Carol was a Latin student for many years and used the letters ‘NB’ when she wanted to ‘note well’ a passage to emphasize. It just fit when we started making our wine.”
Narby joins a number of graduates from the Boeing Wine Club, including Cadence, Austin Robaire, Soos Creek and a half-dozen others who have taken their amateur status commercial with positive results.
“These are smart people who meet on a regular basis, ask questions, talk about winemaking and know where to go for answers,” said Al Cutshall, Boeing Wine Club member. “We have great resources. We have great contracts with grape growers and we share whatever information we have.
Those resources include some of the best vineyards in the state of Washington. Nota Bene Cellars procures grapes from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Alder Creek, Conner Lee, Kestrel View, Artz Vineyard, Klipsun, Champoux Vineyards, Portteus Vineyards, Chandler Reach Vineyards and more. The vineyard pedigrees read like the Westminster Dog Show—the best of the best.
Narby is a soft-spoken, bespectacled man who looks more like a computer programmer than a winemaker. However, when he talks about wine and his desire to retire from Boeing in five years, his face shines with the exuberance of a kid on Christmas Day.
The couple recently released their 2001 vintage—three Bordeaux blends that are already scoring high with national wine critics, magazines and consumers. But with only 500 cases produced, the wines are extremely limited, and demand is already high.
Nota Bene Cellars’ 2001 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain blend, has a splash of Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon. It consists of 58 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 27 percent of Merlot. And, Good Golly Miss Molly is it exceptional! There is something special about Red Mountain grapes that make the wine shimmer in the glass.
Ripe tannins are balanced with black currant and cassis—served this with pan-seared lamb chops. Better yet, cellar it for at least a year or longer and drink it however you please.
The 2001 Miscela (Italian for blend) consists of 49 percent Merlot, 34 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent of Cabernet Franc and 1 percent of Petit Verdot. “This is my favorite of the trio,” Narby said. “It is the favorite of many of the Boeing wine club members.”
Miscela has big berry, plum and toasted spice in the flavors with a long finish. Any braised beef dish will work with this opulent and rich wine.
The 2001 Kestrel View Estates showcases grapes from the Yakima Valley, and consists of 67 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Merlot, 16 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent of Petit Verdot. This is a softer, more supple wine with raspberries and vanilla in the mouth—feminine but not wimpy. A bit like women’s Olympic beach volleyball—power behind the bikini!
Tim and Carol have been making wines for years in their garage, and winning competitions as members of the renowned Boeing Wine Club since the 1990s. But the seed to make wine germinated with a wedding present in 1985 when they received a winemaking kit.
“It started with a can of blackberry syrup,” Narby recalled. “What we produced was drinkable, but the desire to make something better was on our minds. Boeing had a wine club and we thought that was the way to go—we joined in 1987.”
From the early years of home Zinfandel production (because the grapes were available) to a decade of amateur winemaking in the Boeing Wine Club, Tim Narby and Carol Bryant were increasingly lured into the idea of commercial winemaking. People loved their wines.
Carol Bryant has worked for more than two decades as a state prosecuting attorney. She told her husband she could do all the paperwork involved in establishing a commercial winery. It can take eight to 10 months or more to comply with the paperwork for most new wineries—Carol Bryant had the work done in about three months.
“It helps being an attorney used to dealing with forms,” she said. “This was a product of long work and love.”
Nota Bene Cellars also benefited from the working relationships established through the Boeing Wine Club for vineyards crops. And, with Cowboy, the corporate dog, and Angel, the corporate cat, and Samantha, the corporate leopard gecko—all owned by Kimberly (13), and Ryan (8)—the prospects look good for future Boeing Wine Club members and the continuation of “Nota Bene”—calling attention to something well worth noticing.
Nota Bene Release Party 2004
“Tim’s wine is like watching the cream rise to the top,” said a fellow Boeing Wine Club member. “What appears to be a simple move to produce commercial wines is not so simple. Two, three years go by without selling one bottle of wine, as it sits in the barrel. It is faith and passion that gets you through, and in Tim’s case, the end product is worth the wait.”
Author Christina Kelly worked as a
newspaper reporter on the West Coast for more than 20 years covering
education, public safety, government,
business, environmental issues, entertainment and minority affairs.
During the same time, the Washington native began her lifelong interest
in wine. After two decades in the news reporting business, Christina
decided it was time to concentrate on her passion – the wine
industry. She is our indispensable staff writer and columnist.
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Conner Lee Vineyard
Kestrel View Estates Vineyard
Stillwater Creek Vineyard
Stone Tree Vineyard
Tim and Carol at Taste Washington
The People: Tim and Carol
Tim took one swallow and gazed into the eyes of his bride and said, “This is what I want to make.” Carol gazed right back at her new husband and said, “Sounds like a plan. I’ll help.”
Carol was the child of missionaries serving in Chiengmai, Thailand. Her previous acquaintance with wine was as Christ’s first miracle at the marriage feast in Cana. Tim knew a little more, growing up among Italian steelmakers 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. He and his friends secretly sampled Guff Geneviva’s wine he made in his cellar from a mix of Zinfandel and Muscat grapes.
They went home and broke out a home winemaking kit they received for their wedding. It featured a can of blackberry syrup but the end product was drinkable. They were elated.
In the fall of 1986, they bought fresh Zinfandel grapes out of the back of Tony Picardo’s 18-wheeler he used to park on a street end near the King County Airport. They enlisted some friends and neighbors to help and had their first pressing. It wasn’t Chateaux Margaux, but ever since they’ve done 10+ fermentations a year in their basement and every one has improved on its predecessor.
Tim, a Boeing systems analyst, joined the Boeing Employee’s Wine and Beermaking Club. For more than 30 years, this coterie of gifted amateurs explored Washington grapes before they were a glimmer in the national oenological eye. As Tim and Carol’s wines won many firsts in the club’s annual Winefest, Tim became Grape Procurement Officer and eventually Vice President of Wine.
The youngsters were incorporated into the burgeoning
hobby. Kimberly developed a good eye for the best bunches of grapes
in the field and Ryan became Tim’s trusted co-pilot on his excursions
to the vineyards of Eastern Washington.
“What do you suppose they want here?” she would say cheerfully as she worked her way through entry after entry. It takes most wineries from 8 months to a year to never to get these all filled out and processed. Carol got Nota Bene Cellars through the whole process in 3 months. It may be a record.
And this year came the results: three beautiful Washington reds, each with their distinct virtues, pressed from the 2001 vintage, the best grapes in years. Eighteen years of effort in every sip.
“The Latin root for amateur is amo: to love,” says Carol, the company Latinist . “Wine is alive. It must be the product of love.”
Tim just says, “Isn’t it delicious?”
Nota Bene Cellars Staff